I am an unabashed child of the 80s. I turned 14 in 1980, although I have sort of a weird concept of pop culture from late 1985 on – I lived at home my freshman year (mid-1984 to fall 1985), and didn’t have a TV in college. Plus I lived in England for six months in 1987, which cemented my love of musical artists like Kate Bush and Marillion.
I grew up in a small-ish town in upstate NY (real upstate, as in 3 hours north of Albany and half an hour south of the Canadian border), and we didn’t get MTV for the first few years of its existence. My best friend, who lived in Virginia and with whom I exchanged handwritten 40-page letters every two weeks (this was before the Internet, kids), babbled about this new channel, and I was all “Huh? Whut?” I watched Friday Night Videos and at least one Canadian video show, and on Friday nights when I was flipping between stations, I knew what the hot video was because they were all playing the same one. Like the night I saw Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” three times…
I remember discovering MTV one afternoon, probably 1984 or 1985, and sitting there with my mouth open, sure that it was some kind of promo thing on our cable. I was reluctantly dragged away for supper (my parents were big on the supper-as-a-family thing) and mentioned it at the table, and my mother casually said, as if it weren’t a big deal, “Oh yes, we’ve had that for a week.”
(Mom, don’t read this paragraph.) I remember when I had a 2-week-long Spring Break party my first year of college (again, I lived at home that year) while my parents were away, and we had MTV on All. The. Time. (Okay, except when we tried to watch Krull, but kept getting distracted and rewinding because we had missed the point. As if there were a point to Krull. Our drunken selves were convinced there must be.)
I could go on about my own memories of that time, but that’s not my point here. (If you want more stories, just ask. I have a lot. I will endeavor to make them as amusing as they were at the time.) My point is that MTV had a formative effect on my life, as it did for many people around my age.
Which is one of the reasons why this book is one of my recommended reads: I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution (Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum).
A good friend had rec’d it to me, and eventually it burped up in my Amazon shopping cart “hold for later” or whatever it’s called. I dump stuff in there and when I want to order a certain item and need to bump my order up to $25 so I can get free shipping, I peruse that list. And eventually I Want My MTV burped.
I’m sorry I waited so long.
As an independent businessperson, it’s smart for me to read about business in the area of arts. So the early chapters of the book were fascinating in terms of how the guys took the idea from concept to reality, against all odds.
And then the book settled in to lots of fun stories about artists and videos and drugs and sex and music, and the hardest part was not reading every other story out loud to Ken.
The book is chopped up into small paragraphs of reminiscences by many people, so it was easy to dip in and out. I mostly read chunks of it while I was eating breakfast.
While I was enjoying it, I got an email from another friend letting me know that for my birthday, she was giving me VJ: The Unplugged Adventures of MTV’s First Wave (Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Martha Quinn, with Gavin Edwards). Since it wouldn’t be on sale until after my birthday, she was giving me a heads-up.
VJ was the perfect counterpoint to I Want My MTV – an inside look at the same subject in the words of the first five VJ’s (JJ Jackson passed away a few years ago, but some of his interviews were transcribed). The first book covered everything and talked to hundreds of people, whereas this one was more focused on what the work environment was like. Fascinating stuff again on both levels, business and entertainment.
If you still own your parachute shirts or wistfully miss peplum jackets, or if your CD collection sputters after 1989, then I wholeheartedly recommend these books.